It is well for us to review some of the distinguishing features of Protestantism. In order to effect a reformation it was necessary to go against the tide of almost 1,500 years of tradition, authority, and organized formalism. To resist this powerful momentum was almost impossible. For anyone who broke through the established bounds of scholasticism was considered a heretic, and in turn quickly disposed of. But Luther, "placing himself in the hands of the living God," was able to successfully carry on the revolt against Rome. This was possible because his political theory brought the Elector of Saxony to his aid, and because his spiritual ideals brought a great following from among the general public. Some of these religious principles constitute the subject matter of this article.
1. I am a Protestant because I believe "in the priesthood of believers." I rejoice to know that each believer has been invited to present his personal case at the throne of grace. It is not necessary to go through a super-spiritual representative of the Church who has a special corner on religious power to have your petitions placed before God. The proclamation has gone forth that each believer is welcomed into the presence of the Father to make known his own needs and desires. An ecclesiastical order that has certain spiritual prerogatives which are beyond the reach of everyone but those within the order is abolished. Through a leveling process all distinctions have been removed. In Protestantism a religious democracy is established which entitles all believers to the same amount of spiritual benefits. The most ordinary Christian is in line to receive as much spiritual power and grace as anyone else. We can all have just as much of God as we are willing to pay the price for. He is now equally accessible to every person in the same measure.
2. I am a Protestant because I believe in being "justified by faith." Faith is the only medium whereby we make the pro visions of the atonement vital to our personal lives. Redemption does not come by the penitent performing deeds of righteous ness which purify the soul. All of our effort and striving is of no avail unless it places us on trusting ground. No amount of scourging and' lashing of the soul in discipline can bring the forgiveness of one sin, The prescribed way to receive pardon for all sins is found only in the hand of faith reaching up to God's hand of pardoning power and the clasping of these two hands brings deliverance. The burning of candles, the paying of money for special services, the repetition of prayers just for the sake of numbers, is not sufficient to gain one moment of divine favor for the remission of sins. It takes the blood of Christ to perform this miracle, and that remedy is applied only to the believing heart.
3. I am a Protestant because I believe that there is redeeming merit only in Christ's suffering and death. The bookkeeping system that sets the amount of merit necessary to be saved and then proceeds to hoard all of the merit above that standard is based on the wrong principle. In other words, certain saints have been better than was required for their salvation, thus the surplus merit which they accumulated becomes the property of the Church. The content of the "treasury of merit" can be applied by the authority of the Church to those who are deficient and that will bring the account into balance. This supererogation of moral units is out of keeping with the whole appeal of Jesus. He insisted that we were to walk in all the light that we had, and to do less than that was sin. So if one person has more goodness than his neighbor, then his responsibility is increased by that much. So instead of accumulating a surplus he is only keeping up with God's program for his life.
4. I am a Protestant because I believe in laity participation in public worship. The use of congregational songs which en gage the contribution of each member of the audience will add to the total interest in the service. The exchange of experiences through the medium of testimonies brings benefit to all who are in the service. The opportunity to do personal work in inviting others to the altar gives added interest in kingdom building to those who are laymen. Thus, by spreading the number of those taking part in the worship the interest of the congregation is intensified and a greater variety of activities is injected into the service.
5. I am a Protestant because I believe that the public worship service should be centered around the pulpit. To have a service in the form of a ceremony which practically no one understands and to listen to scripture in a foreign tongue which practically no one can interpret is to lose the dynamic of the gospel. The reading of the Bible and the exposition of the same is indispensable in bringing hearts to a decision and in providing the greatest amount of constructive materials for the believer. The power of the Word is to be found only in its direct application to the listener as it comes forth from the burning heart of an anointed minister. If that pulpit-centered type of worship is lost, then the evangelistic fervor which is so essential in the propagation of the Gospel is absent. This quality of evangelism must be present if the Church fulfills its obligation to the world.
6. I am a Protestant because I do not believe in the infallibility of human judgment. To set up one person as being without error and incapable of making a false interpretation is not in keeping with our human frailties and limitations. To set up Biblical doctrines so that a person must accept a certain interpretation of necessity or be guilty of heresy is going too far in trusting finite judgment. The finest type of devotional character is developed where an individual believes a certain doctrine through divine revelation and is loyal to it because he gives personal sanction to its meaning.
7. I am a Protestant because I believe that every believer should combine the secular and the spiritual aspects of life into a functioning whole. Instead of letting the priests do only spiritual thinking and the laity do only secular thinking there should be a working combination of the two fields of thought. The spiritual should be made practical by the secular and the secular should be made sacred by the spiritual. These two thought areas should not be divorced and left in separate compartments, but the ideal is to let them influence each other so that both will be made stronger.